When my son, Eric, began showing interest in girls, I reflected back upon the foibles and fiascoes of my adolescence and promised myself he would be better prepared for datinghood. Undertaking this as a project meant defining my goals, selecting my strategies, and formulating contingency plans.
What, I asked myself, did I want to accomplish with Eric? The answer was simple: Everything my father had not, including:
- An open, anxiety-free line of communication concerning anything having to do with male/female relationships.
- A respectful attitude toward both himself and members of the opposite gender (a lack of respect for oneself always manifests itself in a lack of respect for others, and vice versa).
- An understanding of the "politics" of dating, including an appreciation of and respect for the worries, wishes, and expectations - both explicit and implicit - typical of teenage girl's parents.
I also had to accept that there is no science to this, no approach that will guarantee the desired outcome. Do your best, I told myself, and do not accept the blame for mistakes Eric may make. I knew that the success of my venture was less a matter of intellect than a matter of sensitivity and intuition. In order to be "in tune" with Eric, I not only had to make myself available, but had to spend time with him on a regular basis. My professional experience had taught me that teenage boys who lack relationships with healthy adult male role models often take to acting out very distorted ideas of what makes for a "real man."
During Eric's teen years, we built models, played golf, and went to many a rock concert together. The relationship was hardly free of antagonism, but it never lacked for energy.